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Watermelon board has colorful option to slapping

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Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:58 PM

Much to my frugal husband’s horror, I’ve been purchasing pre-cut watermelon. I’m sick of buying the whole watermelon only to find it either over- or under-ripe. Yes, yes. I know I can return it. But who wants to brave the Town Plaza parking lot twice in one day? Can we blame it on genetic modification to make watermelons “seedless?” A little help here, please. Sign me, “Let’s Pass a Lemon Law for Watermelons.”

You can get cut watermelon. And you can get dried watermelon.

Naturally, Action Line discovered that watermelon issues are fairly cut and dried.

Two distinct groups represent America’s watermelon industry: the National Watermelon Association and the National Watermelon Promotions Board.

So which is the top-ceded organization? Or should we say, top-seeded?

The watermelon people slice up their duties into two halves.

First, there’s the National Watermelon Association.

It’s a voluntary membership trade group “dedicated to making a positive difference in the business and lives of its watermelon family – those involved in the growing, grading, handling, transporting, distributing and selling of watermelon,” the association says on its website, watermelon.ag.

Thus, the National Watermelon Association is the production, lobbying and political vine of the industry.

Meanwhile, the National Watermelon Board is a commodity promotion organization.

It’s funded by a self-mandated assessment from 1,500 watermelon growers, shippers and importers nationwide and operating under USDA oversight.

Espousing “the nutritional, culinary and convenience benefits of watermelon,” the board serves as the marketing and communications arm of the industry.

Thus, Action Line called its press office for some juicy details.

Stephanie Barlow, the board’s senior director of communications, picked up after three rings.

“Wow,” said Action Line. “I was expecting voicemail. Aren’t watermelon spokespeople swamped with media queries prior to the 4th of July?”

Stephanie chuckled. “Actually, most of the major watermelon promotions are already underway, so we’re good,” she said from her office in Winter Springs, Florida.

First and foremost, Stephanie stressed that no watermelon, seedless or otherwise, comes from genetic modification.

“Different traits and new varieties come from cross breeding,” she said.

Phew. Mrs. Action Line eschews Franken-foods or anything that could cause “melon-noma.” Not that there’s such an affliction, but one can’t be too careful.

Next question: How can people tell when a watermelon is perfect for eating?

“That’s the number one question we get,” Stephanie said.

Some people think “slapping” a watermelon is the best way to gauge its ripeness.

No one should slap anything these days.

So hand it to the Watermelon Board with its striking honesty. “We don’t promote this method,” Stephanie said firmly.

“Unless you know the specific ‘thump’ sound a ripe watermelon makes, it’s not helpful. Besides, there’s an easier ways to tell.”

Turn the watermelon and look for a spot that’s butter-yellow colored, she advised. “That’s the best indicator for ripeness.”

Eschew melons with a sunflower-yellow spot (a sign of over-ripeness) or a white or greenish spot, which indicates the melon’s not quite ready for backyard seed-spitting contests.

Lots more tips, trivia and recipes are at the board’s website, watermelon.org.

As for establishing a “lemon law,” the effort would be fruitless.

Grocers are proactive with problematic produce, providing pro bono proxies or proper proffers.

“That’s why the fresh-cut watermelon is actually a great, economical choice,” Stephanie said.

“The cut watermelon typically comes from the same batch on display, so it is a good indicator of what you can expect from a whole melon.”

That’s the scoop on watermelons, so have a ball this summer.

Email questions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. You can ask for anonymity if you knew that the world’s heaviest watermelon was 350.5 pounds, grown in 2013 by a Tennessee farmer.

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